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It wasn’t that long ago that taking firearms into or out of Canada was fairly easy. I recall that long guns were no problem, and even handguns only required a simple seal showing that you hadn’t used the handgun while in Canada. That all changed in the late 1990’s.

Now transporting a firearm, especially a handgun, into Canada, without severe criminal penalties, can be daunting.

A couple of years ago, I was talking to a Canadian firearms and defensive handgun enthusiast (yes, they exist).  He told me that handguns that were made before 1898 were exempt from the licensing laws. Another proviso was that they couldn’t be chambered for certain cartridges. There were some very effective handguns made before 1898, so I started watching for a nice functioning Webley, or Tranter, or maybe something more exotic. I recently discovered, though, that the task became even more difficult two years ago.

In 2014, the RCMP unilaterally changed their interpretation of what constitutes an antique handgun. From the National Canadian Firearms Facebook page:

Recently there have been a number of questions regarding the RCMP’s reclassifications of antique handguns. This issue is particularly troubling due to the misunderstanding surrounding antique handguns in the first place. Lets start off with how the antique firearms regulations have historically been applied in Canada. Here is the exerpt from the RCMP’s site:

  • manufactured before 1898 that can discharge only rim-fire cartridges, other than .22 Calibre Short, .22 Calibre Long or .22 Calibre Long Rifle cartridges;
  • manufactured before 1898 that can discharge centre-fire cartridges, other than a handgun designed or adapted to discharge .32 Short Colt, .32 Long Colt, .32 Smith and Wesson, .32 Smith and Wesson Long, .32‑20 Winchester, .38 Smith and Wesson; .38 Short Colt, .38 Long Colt, .38-40 Winchester, .44‑40 Winchester, or .45 Colt cartridges.

Ever since the act was introduced, this has been interpreted the same way. If the firearm in question was produced prior to 1898 and is not chambered in the calibers listed above, or the firearm has not been altered to fire those calibers, it was recognized as an antique under the firearms act. As an example, If you owned a Colt revolver built prior to 1898, which was rechambered from 38 Long Colt (on the exemption list) to 38 special, or 44 Special (not on the list) It was recognized as an antique. This firearm can be bought and sold without a license, and shot anywhere you can legally discharge a non restricted firearm.

Several weeks ago at the same time that the Swiss Arms and CZ858 became prohibited, the RCMP changed their interpretation of the law, affecting the classifications of many antique firearms. Now, the RCMP does not recognize that same firearm as being antique because it was originally built in a non antique caliber. The FRT #’s which historically showed these firearms as antique, have now been changed to restricted and prohibited. There are a number of issues with this, including the fact that antique letters have been issued for these guns for many years, showing them as antiques.

That still leaves a number of pistols and revolvers that would work, but you may have to document them. The Tranter that Tia is holding in the picture above is chambered in .442 rimfire, so it fits the bill. The Mauser in her right hand was made after 1898 so it’s out. There were, however, about 15 thousand of them made before 1898, so if you have one, consider yourself fortunate. The 7.65 X 25 Mauser isn’t on the prohibited list.  It would be just the thing to keep around the cabin for black bear protection in the great white north.

Canada doesn’t have much of a problem with gangbangers holding up liquor stores using antique Colt revolvers. Their regulatory change was made out of animosity to gun ownership and shows the danger of creeping bureaucracy. In spite of long-standing precedent, our brothers in Canada lost a chunk of freedom to the RCMP at the stroke of a keyboard.  I hope they can reverse it, but with another Trudeau now in power in Canada, it may be a while.

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

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  1. It’s always nice learning about other countries’ laws regarding firearms- certainly makes me thankful to be an American despite all the attempts being made to curtail the 2A.

    Perhaps anyone familiar could enlighten me though: I’ve always found it strange that Canadians have much more restrictive gun laws than Americans. There are some basic parallels in our histories: untamed wilderness/frontier, hostile natives, hunting culture, power struggles between European powers. I would assume such a country would have a very robust gun culture (maybe they do, IDK) that would not let so many of the restrictive laws in Canada come into effect.

    Is it because Canada always maintained a certain affinity for the British crown and is part of the Commonwealth? Is it that urban (and one would assume more progressive) centers totally out-vote/organize more pro-gun areas? The parallels that I mentioned above also were true for Australia and we see what happened to them. I just always thought that our neighbors who had such a similar North American experience (minus a Revolution, which could be the answer to my question) would be pretty pro-gun but recent legislation proves otherwise.

    Any knowledge on this?

    • I’m no expert on Canada but they have no 2A- they are subjects. Oh and Canada has a long socialist left-wing bent(and it’s worse after the Trudeau fiasco election)…similar to Kiwi land with a giant landmass settled with great hardship and a tiny (mostly) white population. And dominated by British tradition.

      • Perhaps that is my answer, that they have a different interpretation of citizenship per British tradition. Of course, we always considered ourselves British subjects prior to 1776. British laws were different regarding firearms back then, but people were viewed as subjects. I’ve just never been able to find a satisfactory answer to my question though. Without these independent trappers and settlers in Canada, there wouldn’t really be a Canada right? That settlement doesn’t happen without guns or participation in the use of guns by Canadians and not just British soldiers. Canada also had its own tradition of a militia especially during times of unrest with the US (French and Indian War, American Revolution, War of 1812, First Nations hostilities). It just doesn’t compute with me how people with that tradition have become such an anti-gun country on the whole. I guess that is just how it is.

        • It’s easy. Just remove it from the history books and educate the youth around it. TADA!!! No more tradition.

        • Not that complicated . The Canukians were started by frog immigrants rather than the English Puritans who settled in New England. Then they never figured out that the “royalty” fiction of the head thugs NOT having some BS “divine right”. If the SUBJECTS buy into your line of BS you can sell them anything (see also Obama).

      • My answer is the vast rural area is so devoid of voters that the law is whatever the multitude of progressives in Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver want it to be. (and from what I’ve seen, Toronto is practically Canada’s San Francisco, or at least Seattle)

      • Canadian Gun control started much the same way New York’s did; fear of immigrants and socialists. Since then the Left leaning areas which are the most populous (primarily East of Manitoba) have had the most say in politics. Not to mention the “Canadian sterotype” of always being agreeable is unfortunately true in terms of politics, as long as the status quo doesn’t massively change Canadians don’t really have mass political movements.

        Luckily the Cons just voted to recognize Firearms as a Canadian Heritage so unlike Aus and the UK we do have a relatively strong party fighting for our rights. Hopefully the young prince will botch the country up enough to motivate people to put the cons back in power.

        If you want to see something amazing check out Senator Anne Cools, she has more sense and has supported gun rights more than every sitting Republican combined. During senate hearings on the Travesty of 94 she actually called out the antis on their emotion driven shit and told them to 1) get a real fact based argument and 2) stop pushing bullshit rhetoric and pseudoscience on the government. Unfortunately a majority government has ALL the power in our system and they were not as sensible nor as smart as Senator Cools and pushed for the statist crap we have.

        In terms of gun culture there is plenty, it is however completely outside urban areas. We still do have plenty of dangerous wildlife and this make guns a way of life for most rural dwellers.

        Another problem is that we have quite a few FUDDs and Black rifle disease has only started to really take root recently with the newer generation of shooters.

        From what I have seen, unlicensed gun owners outnumber licensed ones. So take that at face value, just my experience.

    • Remember that Canada wasn’t actually an independent country before 1931. Until then, yes, they had their own government, but they were still ultimately subject to the authority of the British parliament, and their jurisprudence followed the developments back home, so to speak.

    • The answer is simple: U.S.A. has an ambiguous second amendment to its constitution that has been argued over since its inception, leading to entrenched positions on either side but focusing on the issue as a rights-based constitutional imperative. Canada, on the other hand, has no such lynchpin for controversy in its founding document (B.N.A. Act, 1867, now Part 1 of the Constitution Act, 1982), with the result that Canada has evolved more pragmatically regarding guns, with fewer absolutes driving the dialogue and fewer wingnuts framing the conservative side of the debate.

    • I think I would trust a sword over a 7.63 Mauser for bear defense, but generally speaking you cannot carry swords around ANYWHERE, even in the nice “free” states in the US where it’s easy to get a concealed handgun permit.

      • There are a fair number of states where you can carry a sword, even to places you are not allowed a firearm. Arizona, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, I am pretty sure of. I think Oklahoha, Utah, and Alaska. We almost got it in Texas last year. Killed in committee by a Dem committee chair after he promised to let it through. Had passed both chambers on a voice vote, but needed “vetting” in his committee. He simply refused to pass it on, and he was put in the position by the Republican leadership.

        You have to look at each state, but has been doing great work on this.

        I can carry a saber or a bowie knife on my belt and walk through the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and it would be legal.

        Thinking about doing it next time I visit. I think you can carry a sword in California, but their laws are voluminous, arcane, and almost occult.

    • Forget swords (don’t even think about using flails though!), 303 and 12 gauge are the most common remedy for human to bear interface failures around these northern parts.

  2. It’s my understanding that their long arms laws are less restrictive then some of our nutty antigunner states. Last I knew they still had Norinco imports coming in.

    • We have tons of Norinco, I have an ar15, had a norinco sks, tons of cheap Norc pistols available. You can get a 1911 45 new for $279 cad$. Roughly $225 of your money.

    • Good to see at least someone from GNR is 2A supporting. Maybe they are actually talking about bringing Democracy to China.

      Seriously though, they do have some low points in terms of buying stuff. I think they get 5 rounds is all. Can’t even load that Norinco SKS up to full capacity.

    • Canada is better on long guns than the various AW-ban states, though the mags are limited to 5 rounds (10 for handguns). Rifles and shotguns can be shorter than in the US, but pistol barrels must be at least 4.16 long, and anything less than .38 / 9mm is banned.

      • Not entirely true. Handguns in .32 or .25 calibres are prohibited, as are those with barrels under 105mm

      • Mag size limit has some workarounds.

        For one thing, a “pistol” mag can be legally used in a rifle if it fits – as far as law is concerned, what makes e.g. the usual STANAG magazine a pistol mag or a rifle mag is the intent, preferably expressed by the markings on the body. So if it says that it’s intended for gun X, and that’s a pistol, then it’s a pistol mag. As such, it can be loaded with 10 rounds. The law says nothing about inserting it into a rifle, so that’s legal. Consequently, one company in Canada has imported an AR “pistol”, and started manufacturing mags stamped as designed for it. That gives you 10 rounds for your XCR or SU-16 right there.

        Another hack is that the same intent principle applies to calibers. So if a magazine is stamped as e.g. .50 Beowulf, and fits no more than five .50 Beowulf rounds, then it’s kosher. The fact that it can be loaded with 14 5.56 rounds, and inserted into a rifle chambered in the same, is immaterial.

        Unfortunately, no-one had imported a Beowulf “pistol” there yet to combine the two approaches.

  3. Our non restricted long guns are fairly easy. Basically do a 2 day course get your licence and buy them at will. You can hunt and transport fairly easily. Example of non rest are most bolt, pump, lever, semi. The AR and most pistols are restricted, range use only can’t hunt with it. But we just buy alternatives like the ACR, Robinson arms etc.

  4. I live near the Canadian boarder with the USA. Why is ANYONE surprised that the RCMP changed the Canadian gun rules to make them more restrictive. CANADA DOES NOT HAVE A SECOND AMENDMENT.

    The Supreme Court of Canada has addressed the question of whether the possession and use of firearms is a constitutionally protected right and has rejected the notion that Canadians have an absolute constitutional right to possess and use firearms. See
    R. v. Wiles, [2005] 3 S.C.R.895, at para. 9;
    R. v. Hasselwander, [1993] 2 S.C.R. 398, at para. 414.

    The Canadian Supreme Court stated in Hasselwander at para. 414 that, “Canadians, unlike Americans, do not have a constitutional right to bear arms.”

    In Wiles at para. 9, the Supreme Court said:“Possession and use of firearms is not a right or freedom guaranteed under the Charter (of Rights and Freedoms), but a privilege.”
    Senior Gun Owner 1950

  5. This is the problem with not having a founding document that prevents politicans from infringing on the rights of the people. Bureaucrats unchecked are dangerous to freedom.

    • But Canadian politicians and bureaucrats don’t “infringing on the rights of the people”.
      Canadian guns are a PRIVILEGE granted by the government. And canadian gun PRIVILEGEs like any PRIVILEGE, it can be modified, changed, limited or REVOKED at any time. The Parliament in Ottawa could declared that all guns must be surrendered to the nearest RCMP post for a $250 (Can.) voucher or pre-paid credit card and just like that all guns would ber “bought back” and banned. Can any say Australia of the North?? That why I’m glad to be living south of that US Canadian boarder
      Senior Gun Owner 1950

    • A written constitution that acknowledged the right to own firearms would help, but as was said upthread, it wouldn’t have made much difference for us in Canada. There are just too many voters in certain big cities who by default support anti-gun parties. Those voters may not even be all that anti-gun themselves, but the Liberal and NDP parties at the higher levels of power definitely are.

      So even if we had that written document, they’d find a way to abrogate it, and use their voting majorities to push change through. It might take a bit longer, but not much.

  6. Being from another commonwealth country, New Zealand, I can comment on the most likey scenario.
    Gun laws in New Zealand were very lenient until just after world War I. I the wake of the Russian revolution the upper class got very nervous in the UK and passed numerous firearms laws to take furearms away from the lower class. This of course was copied by the other members of then the British Empire. Mostly the effected pistols and automatic weapons. Your laws on auto weapons in the USA also changed around this time.
    However firearms are seen as privilege to own rather than right to own.
    Long guns have been seen as practical weapons for hunting, target shooting but of course even the rules around these have steadily tightened over the years
    In New Zealand a firearm is basically treated very much like a car. You need a licence and have to pass a test to show you are a fit and proper person to have possession of a firearm. They must be stored in lockable metal safes with ammunition stored seperately.

  7. There are a lot of bad laws up here, but one nice one is our short barreled shotgun rules- they are non-restricted. So, most people who need a backpacking gun in Canada will carry an SBS, loaded with the appropriate ammo. Most antique calibers are pretty anemic considering some of the bigger bears and other animals up here, whereas a 12 gauge slug will work even out of a 12 inch barrel.

    The other one that’s popular up here are the “mare’s leg” style lever actions, but with full length stocks. One of those in .44 magnum works well but doesn’t take up too much space.

  8. On a more recent note, Just this past week the RCMP decided to “re-interpret” our magazine laws and are now claiming that most 10/22 magazines are prohibited.

    Under our laws, magazines designed or manufactured for rimfire rifles have no capacity limits, but magazines for handguns are limited to no more than 10 rounds. What this means is that, up until recently, we could own nearly any 10/22 magazine, including 110 round drums, but could not own the Ruger BX-25 magazine, since it’s marketed as being compatible with both the 10/22 and the Charger pistol (Ruger kinda screwed us over with that one). Now though, the RCMP are claiming that any magazine designed for the 10/22 is also inherently designed for the Charger and therefore should be subject to the 10 round limit, a patently absurd notion since the Butler Creek magazine predates the release of the Charger by a good three decades.

    Whether or not this new interpretation will hold up in court is as yet unknown, it does seem to conflict with the wording of the law, but our courts have made some pretty stupid decisions before. As it stands though, getting it struck down in court is about our only hope, since with Shiny Pony and his Cronies ruling the roost we’re unlikely to get any help from Parliament.

  9. All in all, in Canada, we of lesser standing have no way of defending ourselves from an overbearing federal police force (RCMP) when it comes to responsible gun ownership. They have decided that if it looks scary that’s all they need to “declare” that this ‘scary’ gun should be “restricted or prohibited”. I know of lots of gun owners who are law abiding / responsible people who would NOT EVER think to use a firearm in anger, nor would they brazenly carry a firearm with them where ever they go. On the other hand there are those of the criminal type who no longer have to worry about the local police stopping them to find out why they don’t look right. It is these types who go around shooting each other and hapless innocents who are the ones who become victims. Think about this, WHO is easier to control, the SHEEP or the WOLF. Well as one of the SHEEP in my society, I am definitely starting to feel very CONTROLLED to the point of saying why bother voting any more, because what matters to me, and a lot of others, really does not matter to ANY of the politicians – in that – they are more interested in putting responsible persons on the wrong side of the law instead of putting REAL TEETH into laws that would pick on the criminal element in this society.

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